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iPad Changes Everything 2 June, 2010

Posted by paralleldivergence in apple, education, ICT in Education, Internet, ipad, Life, technology.
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Every so often an invention comes along that is a game changer. Most of the really good ones like the Wheel, Electricity, Light Bulb and Plumbing pre-date me, but I am fortunate to live in a time where the rate of progress now is such that I can witness many of the newest breakthroughs first-hand. Arguably, the Apple iPad is one of these breakthroughs.


Image courtesy of philderksen

So what is it that compels me consider placing the iPad into such a revered category of invention?  Prior to its release, Steve Jobs called this thing “magical” and “revolutionary”. Obviously, I’m very skeptical about the “magical” tag, but it’s very hard to quibble with the second descriptor attached to the device.

But why?  We have had LCD screens and internet browsers and email apps for ages. How can something that does what we’ve been doing with computers for years be called a “game changer“? The thing is, it’s not WHAT the iPad does that makes it special. It’s HOW the USER interfaces with it that is the difference - and it’s a massive difference.

For all my adult life, I’ve been using computers on a daily basis. I know what they do and I can do amazing things with them. My children grew up in a world and home life where computers and access to the world via the Internet was the norm. We were totally connected. On the flipside, my wife knew what computers could do, but she just wasn’t interested in using them. If she had a question that needed to be looked up on-line, she knew either our kids or I could do it for her. She had different hobbies and workloads that filled her day and the computers in our house were not part of her routine. There was clearly a barrier there for her that she decided she didn’t need or want to cross. Computers just never excited her – and for her needs, I can truly say there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But I always felt she was missing out.

And I can’t help but imagine how many others are also in the same boat? The World Internet Usage Statistics suggest that penetration in Australia is just over 60%. How do they work that out? Because so many households have an internet connection and there’s an average of so many people in each household?  Multiply the two figures together and divide it into the overall population and there’s your percentage?  Well my personal experience shows that in my household, there would be an error-margin of 25% in that calculation. My own experience with people in general tells me that the actual internet penetration across the population is less than half.  I believe most western countries would be the same.

When it comes to Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs), we can split the world up into three distinct groups:

  • The ICT RichIndividuals with easy access who choose to be connected regularly
  • The ICT AvoidersIndividuals who could be connected, but for whatever reason, choose not to
  • The ICT Poor - Individuals who through their situation have little or no access to ICTs.

I classified my wife in the second category years ago and despite my efforts to change that, the barriers were too great for her. Then I heard about the Apple iPad and instantly I could see it as a catalyst for ICT Avoiders to become connected. I decided I was going to buy her one on the May 28 release date. I configured it for her with her rarely used email address and a few bookmarks in Safari as well as some of the more popular free iPad apps from the AppStore and then I gave it to her to try out. Instantly, she wanted to touch it, to test it, to see what it does and what she could do with it. She asked me to put some of her favourite photos and music onto it. My children sent her emails with links to some sites she’d be interested in. I showed her how to turn on and off the wireless connection at home.

On the first day, my wife had been going with the iPad for about 4 hours and I can officially advise that she has finally joined the rest of the family in 21C. I can confirm that it is a game-changer, but is it a stepping stone to traditional computing? I’m not sure that Apple’s walled-garden will allow for that. Still, her excitement was palpable, and computers have never done that for her in the past.

Here are my top-ten reasons why I think iPad is “revolutionary” for ICT Avoiders:

  1. Extremely portable – light and not oversized
  2. Cold start in 23 seconds
  3. Very intuitive. The iPhone user interface “makes sense” to just about everyone. iPad is the same with bigger screen real estate (very important)
  4. No complexities added of a permanently visible keyboard and mouse as you have with a traditional computer – for newbies, these are hurdles to overcome – not human interface devices.
  5. Simplicity. One app at a time. 
  6. > 10 hour battery life 
  7. People don’t seem to have any fear that they’ll break something with it 
  8. Some of the apps are very practical from a newbie’s POV.  For example, “Epicurious” puts hundreds of thousands of recipes at your fingertips. Tap what ingredients you have and bang, there’s a stack of recipes to try, including feedback from people who have tried them. Very powerful. And that’s just one example. The App Store is a shopping mall for newbies – as is iTunes Store and iBook Store. 
  9. Internet browsing without the complications. No plugins to install, things either work, or they don’t (flash). You just accept it as it is. 
  10. (so far) It’s reliable. Turn it on and it just works.

iPad will not replace your computer if you are already a computer user. But it’s a handy, convenient option for doing some things, and it does them very elegantly. If you always avoided ICTs, iPad is YOUR gateway to the connected world.

Sorry, I sound like an iPad salesman, but that’s my impression after witnessing the impact it’s had in my own home since Friday – and apart from setting it up and having an initial play with it myself, I’ve been hands-off.  Is it for everyone? No. You can live without it. But if I wanted a way to get “ICT-Avoiders” to start using ICTs, I would give them an iPad.

Revolutionary? I think so. It’s clear that the iPod revolutionised the music industry, and now there is talk that the iPad will revolutionise the newspaper and magazine industry. We’ve had Windows-based tablet computing for almost a decade. If the iPad wasn’t revolutionary, we wouldn’t have so many tech companies rushing to develop a competing product with a similar user interface.

But I’m not going to go as far as 4,000 Britons who were recently surveyed on the “Greatest Inventions of All Time” where the iPhone was voted into 8th place – one in front of the Flushing Toilet. Although I’m sure there’ll be plenty of people using their iPad on the 9th-rated greatest invention of all time.

Do you think the iPad is revolutionary?

Comments»

1. Tim Grech - 2 June, 2010

I was demonstrating something on a PC the other day and motioned to touch the LCD monitor to select something instead of the mouse! The touch interface is a simple thing and been around for a while, but is now penetrating the population as a main interface (for some of us). It’s so intuitive. It’s one aspect where designers of technology are finally reaslising that they need to adapt the technolgoy to make is seamless for humans. Most humans don’t care how it works. They want it to work for them, use devices to do what they want to do (unlike the “geeks” who have the main (or one) end of using the device just for the hell of it (yes that’s me)). That’s what the ipad (and iphone) does that’s revolutionary PLUS putting useful apps behind that touch screen.

paralleldivergence - 2 June, 2010

Isn’t it amazing how quickly a user’s behaviour changes after using an iPad for even a short time? The touch/swipe action is so intuitive that you really miss it when you move back to an ordinary laptop or desktop computer.

I think we’re going to see some incredible progress in this area simply because of the interface doors opened by iPhone/iPad.

2. Dave - 2 June, 2010

I agree with all you’ve said.
And believe it or not, despite what people think of me, I’m not usually wowed by new gadgets.
But this is something else, and has the potential to change the very fabric of schools and libraries into the future.
Globally, we have a huge paper problem. This device can ameliorate that as no other device before it.
You now need only own one book to possess a vast library, and one writing pad to send your thoughts to the world.

paralleldivergence - 2 June, 2010

That’s right Dave. This is a whole new class of computing, between mobile and laptop. It’s a niche product AND it’s a general product. Fascinating.

3. dskmag - 2 June, 2010

Reasons they change education (if allowed)

1. They allow for instructional design of information, process documents etc, where all you need to do is flick a finger.

2. You can create mixed media – inserting video etc., when needed to de-face to face what is a very labour intensive process.

3. There is no keyboard and mouse; to the temptation is NOT to sit behind your screen and do more personally interesting things when you are supposed to be paying attention to the speaker.

4. It promotes reading of information, not surfing information

5. on a large distributed campus; you can take half a dozen in a bag with you, sit under a tree and discuss – the extended battery and small form promotes intimate discussion

6. the layout (say youtube) allows for several modes of display, simply by turning the device – you can create a different kind of information exchange (video vs video and text) for example.

7. most people who are avoiders – have crap machines – and don’t care one way or the other. The iPad should be LEFT with them for a week IMO, then they will experience something startling.

8. speed – it takes time to get in and out of PD. iPad allows a fast drop in, provide support and speedy exit.

9. the app evolution – you can do things with apps like iMockup, that you can’t do as simply with Illustrator or PC. Apps have grown FAT and iPad promotes a Colin Chapman like approach to design

10. Because the solution to engagement with conscientious objectors is NOT more information – the iPad promotes interaction, not creation per se. Most objectors don’t even interact, let alone create.

paralleldivergence - 2 June, 2010

I find iPad is less a creativity device and more a consuming device dskmag, but your point (4) about “reading” (and absorbing) and random surfing is a very valid one. The lack of need to cut/paste (even though you can) also means that as a study tool, it’s way more effective than a compter where students are inclined to copy rather than understand.

4. Victor Davidson - 2 June, 2010

Absolutely agree. Apart from all of the above I will go straight to what was immediately uplifting for me personally. At last my short stubby fingers and dreadfully clumsy fine motor skills have a screen which admits no impediment. Once I find the Japanese word processor (another magic that my fingers desperately adore) my life will move to a new plateau.

At school today I did my show and tell to Year 7. Eyes bulged, glazed over, yearned. “Can I help you learn how to use it Sir?”
Tomorrow in the Library there will be a tussle.

paralleldivergence - 2 June, 2010

Glad you’re liking your iPad Victor. Just keep showing off to your students with all the latest gadgets. :)

5. Tweets that mention iPad Changes Everything « Parallel Divergence -- Topsy.com - 2 June, 2010

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Lyndon Sharp, stuhasic and stuhasic, Jan Green. Jan Green said: RT @stuhasic: My latest blog post – "The iPad Changes Everything" – http://cot.ag/ccsNxO #yam [...]

6. Ruchard Ure - 2 June, 2010

Here http://abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/8146.0/ is a survey of internet usage that might be a bit closer to home. The stats by age are interesting. It is the older people whose usage is minimal who are giving aid and comfort to the Liberals on holding back the NBN and the younger people who are heavy users but can’t vote. Yet.

paralleldivergence - 2 June, 2010

Thanks for the link Richard. I’m sure my 83 y.o. father will appreciate what an iPad could do for him. He too cannot jump over the computer barrier.

7. Paul C - 2 June, 2010

I agree with a lot of what you say Stu, but where is the USB port. This seems a silly, dare I say arrogant omission by Apple. Imagine carrying your iPad into a room showing how cool and game changing it is and then realising you cannot easily share or receive a file. Hey let me give you this cool photo, oh hang on no USB port.

It is a silly omission that mars an otherwise beautiful device.

paralleldivergence - 2 June, 2010

Hi Paul, yes USB would be nice. Flash would be nice. A camera would be nice. But there are alternatives. Email that photo. HTML5 will probably take over from Flash. A camera would be nice. :)

It’s a version 1 product and it has a lot more positives than negatives.

8. Audrey Nay - 2 June, 2010

Stu,
now that you have played….
do you see the iPad being a device for primary school libraries to invest in?
to go with netbooks?
do we still invest in desktops? any reason to do so?
what value do iPods have in school libraries now there are iPads? There have been groups doing great things with these tools….do we need some of each for the different benefits they provide or are some tools better value for what they can/will do in primary schools?

paralleldivergence - 3 June, 2010

Hi Audrey, I’d wait a little bit. It’s still a v1.0 product and it’s more expensive than a netbook. We can pick up the DER Lenovo ones now for under $500 a piece. The base iPad is $629. Then there’s the issue of what parts of iPad don’t work in DET schools.

9. Debbie Evans - 2 June, 2010

Mmacict received our new ipads today. We are looking forward to using them in the field along with our iphones. The larger screen size will encourage a greater level of collaboration with our groups. We have a lot to carry outside and the lightweight slimline build is a factor affecting portability. I agree with the earlier comments: would have loved a camera.

10. David Warlick - 2 June, 2010

Stu,

Nice story about your wife. My wife was a slow starter, but a tech (eBay) queen now. I have to say, though, that the more I try to think through To the potentials of the iPad, especially for education, the more that Apple’s “walled garden” gets in the way.

— dave –

paralleldivergence - 3 June, 2010

Hi Dave. Everyone finds their own catalyst it seems. – I mentioned the walled garden in my article because I personally think it’s a barrier to wanting to venture outside into the dangers of the wild, wild west (and east) that is the Internet. You could relate it with people who choose to live in gated communities.

But in the classroom, that extra level of control may just help the teacher with keeping things on track. It’s possibly a little too early to gauge, but with all the interest by schools in the device, I daresay we’ll be seeing a flood of evidence one way or the other soon.

Debbie’s comment above yours is one such example. Her group will actively investigate iPad’s place in the classroom and report back.

Tony - 3 June, 2010

For me, the walled garden (such as it is…I think the term is very much mis-used) is a positive, not a negative. Users have confidence that an app they download from the app store will not crash their system. For education, administrators have long wanted *everything* to be a walled garden, so that makes it an easier sell. Of course, there’s always the Internet. Safari (or Opera, or iCab, etc.) open up that garden quite a bit. Some of the web-apps optimized for iPhone/iPad are very, very well done. Have you seen the html5 optimized Gmail web page? It’s better than the dedicated Gmail/Google app.

I’ll take a nicely manicured garden full of herbs and veggies over a corner lot filled with weeds any day.

David Warlick - 3 June, 2010

when I referred to the “walled garden” I wasn’t thinking about it in the usual since of protecting children from inappropriate material. Instead, it was Apples desire to control what is done on the iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch throught the iTunes store. I think that this may impede innovation.

Thanks again for the story…

11. Darcy Moore - 3 June, 2010

Stu,

You have a good point about the kinds of people who may be attrected to the iPad.

The iPad is just too expensive for me to justify buying as I just have no need for one at the moment. Of course, I’d happily have one to play with though.

I have tended to agree with Cory Doctorow and Jeff Jarvis about the iPad:
http://www.johnconnell.co.uk/blog/?p=2491
and do not intend to buy one until, maybe, 2.0 rolls around. I can’t imagine carrying it anywhere but one would be nice to have around the house so I could pay Rupert some money (4.99 p/m) to read his (currently free online) national newspaper.

paralleldivergence - 3 June, 2010

Hi Darcy. For tech-savvy people, iPad currently has a lesser need-to-have status. Everything you can do on iPad, you can do with your computer (and much more). But it’s a bit like this. I can record and watch shows on my computer, but I can afford to have a hard disk based Personal Video Recorder (like a TiVO) attached to my TV because it’s so much more convenient. For me, that’s where I see iPad sitting.

But for ICT-avoiders, it has a much more important role.

12. Ian Gay - 3 June, 2010

Interesting article Stu. You have partly swung me over as I had initially dismissed iPads as overpriced, underpowered playthings.

I still feel their use is very limited and their cost precludes them from a future in schools. At $625 for the base model iPad I see the DER notebooks being much better value and much more versatile.

13. The Saintly Soapbox » iPad – I say bah humbug - 5 June, 2010

[...] was excited about the iPad. Stu Hasic on his blog Parallel Divergence called it revolutionary, it may well become that. Apparently the Chinese iPed (running Google [...]


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